On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted 313-118 to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank or Bank), which expired June 30. Until now, conservative opposition to the Bank prevented the consideration of a bill in the House, previously seen as the biggest obstacle to the Bank’s reauthorization. House passage increases the chances that Congress will reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank.
To bring a reauthorization bill to the House floor, proponents led by Representative Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) invoked a discharge petition, a rarely used procedural tool. If signed by 218 members—a majority of the House—a discharge petition bypasses the committee process and forces a bill’s consideration on the House floor. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) promised to support the procedural maneuver if enough Republicans signed on, removing the jurisdiction of the House Financial Services Committee, where Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) opposes reauthorization. The bill represents the first successful discharge petition since McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform in 2002.
The House’s standalone reauthorization bill now heads to the Senate, which previously voted 67-26 on July 26 to pass an amendment to reauthorize the Bank as part of a highway bill that failed to pass the House. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has expressed opposition to a standalone authorization bill. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), the Senate’s leading Bank proponent, expects Ex-Im Bank reauthorization to be considered as part of a longer-term highway and infrastructure bill. Ultimate passage, however, remains uncertain due to a number of factors, including the prospects of a long-term highway bill itself.
Even if Congress reauthorizes the Bank, the lack of a quorum on the Bank’s board of directors prevents the Bank from approving financing greater than US$10 million, which requires a vote of three members on the five-member board. Bank directors are subject to Senate confirmation.